Sunday, 28 August 2016
Flush with funds and with almost the entire media serving as a PR vehicle for Hillary Clinton, while demonising Republican contender Donald Trump, conventional wisdom goes that the 8 November electoral battle has already been decided. Hillary will, according to the pundits, win, and the only question is how big the victory margin of the Democratic Party candidate will be. Such confidence is based on the former Secretary of State being the favoured candidate of Wall Street, which sees Donald Trump as unsympathetic to its demand for primacy in economic policy. The Clintons have been close to Wall Street for nearly three decades. Small wonder therefore that the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act (which had placed severe curbs on the financial industry) was repealed by President Bill Clinton in 1999. Since then, Wall Street has had the upper hand over Main Street in the world’s biggest economy. Steadily, the financial services industry has dominated traditional manufacturing, a consequence of which has been the closure of hundreds of thousands of enterprises that failed to meet the financial tests of Wall Street, the sole purpose of which was to ensure a copious flow of dividend and other income to mega investors as well as top executives of major companies. Simultaneously, the volume of the financial industry grew, reaching the astonishing sum of $120 trillion in value, an absurdity in an economy that is more than ten times smaller in size than such inflated estimates.
Friday, 26 August 2016
IN 1989, Arkansas Governor William Jefferson Clinton decided that he had a high chance of becoming the President of the United States and began systematically working towards that objective. In less than two years, he had succeeded against an incumbent President who had navigated the collapse of the USSR besides comprehensively defeating a dictator ( Saddam Hussein) who had marched into another country (Kuwait). Overall, George H W Bush was a competent if unspectacular chief executive of his country, but this record failed to prevent an untested politician from south from defeating him in the polls.
Clinton’s record at statehouse in Little Rock was unspectacular, and his experience of politics and policy at the federal level was close to zero, while Bush had two decades of experience in govt at the central level, and performed creditably in each of the tasks assigned to him. The problem was that he had a personality that was without any of the flamboyance associated with movie stars and modern politicians, while Clinton was charming both to large groups of people as well as to individuals whom he needed in his climb to the top. In a contest where image counted for much more than reality, he raced ahead of Bush. Unfortunately for Hillary Clinton, she is very similar to George H W Bush, in that she comes across as stilted and hesitant, possessing not enough of the charm of her spouse. Despite a large and effective political machine, she lost out to Barack Obama during the 2008 Democratic Party primaries. Her opponent subsequently went on to win the election. While Barack Obama adopted a Clintonesque set of policies during his first term, filling his administration from retreads from the Bill Clinton years, during his second term, the present US Head of State has made major changes in policy, including towards Iran and Cuba Bill Clinton has fashioned a political machine that is better than that of any of his recent predecessors, and this machine has been placed in service of Hillary.
The reality is that the Clintons are a team, with daughter Chelsea now forming the third pole of the Clinton family enterprise, which is a mixture of commerce and politics. For the Clintons, political power and money move in unison, and they believe that it is essential to make and to spend vast amounts of money in order to win. In the minds of the Clintons, it was the huge influx of cash into the Obama campaign that gave the first African-American President of the US the oxygen needed to overtake Hillary Clinton. In the battle against Donald Trump, they are relying on the better funded Democratic Party campaign to ensure that the Republican challenger meets the same fate as Barry Gold water did against Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
It must be stated that it was fortunate for the country that Johnson was elected, for it was the Texas politician who ensured the passage of the Civil Rights Act as well as creating the modern Social Security system. Johnson was considered a bit of a hillbilly by the East Coast media and their West Coast copycats, but the fact is that the issue which tripped him up was Viet Nam. And the reason for this was that he obeyed the commands of the Kennedy holdovers in his team, much as Obama went by the opinions of the former Clinton team members, especially in the matter of economic policy.
Despite his professions of idealism, Obama consigned millions of homeowners to the pavement, allowing mortgage companies to take over their homes. At the same time, huge amounts of cash were spent on rescuing banks and other financial institutions from the ditch that the greed of executives at the top had cast them into. Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geithner were preferred for appointment by Obama as economic advisors over those who had been in place during first election campaign of charismatic Kenyan-American who so entranced Nobel Committee that he was awarded a peace rise in midst of pursuing two major wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Had Donald Trump been a bit more diplomatic in his views about two communities that have done so much good to the US (African Americans and Hispanics), he would have easily been the favourite in the 2016 election. Hillary Clinton is clearly rehearsed and unspontaneous, while it is clear that the foundation run by her daughter and husband had a considerable say within the State Department. It is ironic that the Clinton Foundation talks of “lowering the cost of AIDS drugs” when in fact it is close to the very pharmaceutical companies that are selling medicines at very high prices and buying up companies producing generic drugs either to shut down entire production lines of low cost drugs for diseases of the poor, or boosting the prices of generic drugs to levels not seen before.
Luckily, the US media keep away from critical examination of any adverse record of the Clintons, such as the fact that Hillary Clinton’s policies as Secretary of State adopted the line taken by those countries whose nationals made huge donations to the Clinton Foundation. Only during the past few days has the volume of leaks about the foundation been too much to get ignored, although it is clear that media outlets unapologetically taking a pro-Clinton course ( such as CNN or the New York Times) are unhappy at having to devote space to any report which damages Hillary Clinton In a final twist of the truth, it is Donald Trump (who opposed the wars in Libya, Syria and Iraq and who seeks peace with Russia and even North Korea) who is being portrayed as a warmonger (in shades of Gold water).
As for Hillary Clinton, the individual who backed the war in Iraq and who joined hands with Cameron and Hollande to intervene in Libya and trigger the mayhem that has followed, she has been put in the role of peacemaker by the US and EU media. Their treatment of the Trump-Clinton battle makes it clear that the media in the US and the EU is about as “free” as that in Russia or China. However, even the demonisation of Trump may not be enough to ensure that Hillary Clinton wins, unless she can acquire at least a bit of the charm and charisma of Bill Clinton.
Sunday, 21 August 2016
Saturday, 20 August 2016
HAD the 1914–19 and 1939–45 world wars not taken place, the odds are that much of the world would have managed its liberation from countries in Europe only about now. In the case of India, a factor that has never been mentioned in the hundreds of books written by official historians of that period was the growing sense of injustice felt by “native” soldiers in the British Indian Army. Although several millions of such troops fought and died in both world wars on the side of the Allies, their contribution has been ignored. Indeed, when France celebrated the 50th anniversary of the entry of Allied troops on its soil in 1944, India was not invited, despite the fact that the (then undivided) country had put several times more troops into the fray than had the French during 1939–45,who during that war were under occupation by Germany for four years during that period.
A similar neglect was the case in the UK, the country that used up vast numbers Indian manpower and quantity of resources against Germany in both wars. In contrast, India was given an honoured place at celebrations in Moscow for what is called in Russia the “Great Patriotic War”. Whether in Europe or in Asia, “native” troops saw that the privileged men from Europe in their militaries were often very poor fighters. In particular, the sweep of the Japanese victory over British, French and Dutch forces in Indo-China during the 1939–45 war broke the myth of superiority that had been used till then to keep those of Asian origin from attempting to shake off their European tormentors.
The discriminatory treatment of non-Europeans caused resentment that led to an eruption of mutinies in the army and the navy. It was clear that in a very short time, the British in India would face a full scale revolt of the “native” component in their armed forces that would be much bigger than the proportion which revolted against their British overlords . Without armed force, there was no way the British Indian Empire could survive, which was why it was reluctantly accepted that the Union Jack would need to come down permanently from flag staffs all across the subcontinent.
Immediately after he took office as Prime Minister of India on August 15,1947, Jawaharlal Nehru chose the former residence of the British Commander-in-Chief of the Indian army as his official home. Subsequently, he downgraded the status of the military, so much so that in India, the men and women in uniform have very little say in decisions concerning them, being excluded even from positions in the Ministry of Defence. Over the decades, police and paramilitary forces took on the uniform, the plumage, of soldiers, including the fixing of stars on their official vehicles, while the Ministry of Defence has since 1947 been run by officials without any training in matters of national defence, a lack that shows itself with high frequency in the quality of decisions which get taken. As for the politicians who nominally are in charge, most look only to selected deals and leave other matters to the civilian bureaucracy. Those who are admirers of Prime Minister Modi are hoping that he will ensure that specialist ministries such as Finance, Defence, Commerce, Home and Human Resource Development will be staffed by cadres with domain knowledge, and also include recruits from outside the official machinery at all levels. Thus far, Modi has been very slow to make fundamental changes, preferring to proceed in incremental steps so as to avoid any confrontation with powerful lobbies within the bureaucracy, although there are signs that such a policy of “hastening slowly” may soon change.
The wars of the future will not be the same as battles fought in the 19th and 20th centuries. They will involve the extensive use of cyber and information technology, as well as methods such as drone warfare and lasers. Psychological operations will be important, and brainpower will prevail over muscle power, in that flexible tactics and speed and surprise will ensure victory. Given the vast pool of Information Technology recruits in India, the potential for such new methods is significant. However, this will come about only through decisions taken at the top. In such a context, the example of NATO is relevant. That alliance invariably goes into action only against much weaker foes, especially regimes which have been denuded (or denuded themselves) of high-impact weapons.
However, despite having spent vast amounts of money and deployed weapons of a sophistication far above that of other military alliances, NATO has suffered defeat after defeat, including in the longest war it has fought, that with the Taliban since 2001. That militia is still not only alive but kicking, and kicking hard, so much so that NATO commanders seem to be clueless as to how to overcome this foe. Because of failure to eliminate the Taliban, even the US is desperately searching for “Good Taliban” ie those fighters who will leave its and allied militaries alone.
In contrast to NATO, which for two years could inflict very little damage on Daesh (IS), within a year the Russian Air Force has notched up much more successes on the field than the French, British and US air forces combined, while the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) in Iran has shown itself to be the most capable of the many forces battling ISIS on the field While India needs to enter into a robust partnership with the US, this ought not to be at the cost of continued closeness to Russia, or indeed to Iran.
In the war on IS, this columnist has since 2013 argued in favour of carrying out air strikes on Daesh targets in Iraq and Syria with the cooperation of the authorities in Baghdad and Damascus. It is a welcome sign that the Minister of State for External Affairs, M J Akbar,is soon to visit Iraq and Syria to discuss the war on terror. Rather than go the way of 19th century Europe, where countries weakened the continent and themselves by fighting each other, 21st century Asia needs to cooperate together against the terror threat ,especially that posed by Daesh.
Sunday, 14 August 2016
Friday, 12 August 2016
DONALD J Trump has been condemned by the strategic establishment on both sides of the Atlantic for his comments on NATO. However, the reality is that the Republican nominee is correct in his assessment of the military alliance, that it is now an anachronism, and indeed a dangerous one for the security of the globe. Once the Soviet Union collapsed, NATO ought to have been disbanded and replaced by a mesh of alliances across the globe, some involving European states, others excluding them. However, bureaucracies are adept at survival, as for example has been witnessed at India’s Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO), which has morphed into a trade union for scientists and technologists rather a means towards self-reliance in advanced weaponry.
NATO is even better at providing “jobs for the boys” than the DRDO, and has since the 1990s evolved into an alliance without a genuine core mission, except of course self-preservation NATO has often intervened in force during the past two decades, much more than was the case in previous decades, but these are invariably in countries whose military capabilities are far inferior to those of the alliance (which avoids tangling with Moscow despite the takeover of territories in Georgia and Ukraine by an assertive Vladimir Putin) However, while the alliance usually has muscle to win a battle or two, it lacks brainpower needed to win the war.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban are still a force in almost a third of the country, and control much of poppy trade. This is despite constant pounding by US and other forces against them, interspersed with efforts at co-opting elements of the Taliban into power-sharing arrangements. Afghan National Army (ANA) has till recently been deprived even of an Air Force, this while NATO spends on itself tens of billions of dollars each year in deployments that on the ground achieve almost no long-term result. Whether it be in Iraq, Afghanistan or in other locations where NATO has inserted itself, much of its expenses have come about as a consequence of funding a force with bloated expenditure levels.
India or China could each deploy hundreds of thousands of troops across theatres of conflict at a cost far below that incurred by the profligacy of the NATO commanders. Despite such huge budgets, the alliance has not won any of the major wars that it has fought. Neither Iraq nor Afghanistan have been stabilised, in fact the opposite has taken place. Both countries have been edged closer to ruin, a situation in which they are joined by other countries in which NATO has been active, such as Libya and Syria This columnist warned in writing in 2011 that a flood of refugees into Europe and a revival of the terror machine would follow NATO intervention in Libya and afterwards, Syria. Not being from the tribe of boosters of NATO, these warnings went unheeded, as indeed did others in the past, such as to Andrew Marshall at the Pentagon soon after the Iraq that the way US forces were operating in that country, disaster would follow.
The advice was that these forces ought to situate themselves at the borders of the country, and leave the rest of the land to be run by the people of Iraq themselves rather than by comic book proconsuls such as Paul Bremer. Any individual who calls out such mistakes is sought to be marginalized as a “fringe element”, and this is the fate that has been reserved for Donald Trump, unless there be a September Surprise or an October Surprise which makes Hillary Clinton toxic to the US voter, thereby enabling the construction magnate to occupy the White House in a shock victory that would see the first challenge to establishment primacy in policy since first Teddy and later Franklin Roosevelt took over at the White House.
Franklin in particular was a visionary, for example favouring independence for India even in the 1930s, but he chose a machine politician, Harry Truman, as his Vice President, and once the lad from Missouri came into the Oval Office, he ensured that the establishment regained its dominance over policy, a process accelerated under Dwight D Eisenhower, who played golf while conventional wisdom ruled over policy, among the most disastrous of which was Washington (except briefly in the case of the Suez Canal) abandoning the Roosevelt policy of support for Asian countries against European colonialism, and allying the US with France in Vietnam. These days, at Aleppo, another huge error by NATO seems to be taking shape. So visceral is the hatred of the alliance for Bashar Assad (a stance formed through generous donations to think tanks and retired officials by countries seeking the overthrow of the Alawite leader) and his ally Vladimir Putin that it has backed what at the core are elements of ISIS in that city.
Should the “moderate opposition” take over the east of that almost fully destroyed city, as is sought by NATO and its regional allies, the more than a million inhabitants in the western parts of Aleppo that are Alawi,Kurd, Christian or moderate Sunni face the same sort of slavery and slaughter that faced the Yazidis when ISIS (armed with weapons earlier handed over to the “moderate opposition” by France and Qatar) surrounded Mount Sinjar. Certainly Bashar Assad is hardly a textbook example of a democrat, but he is a far better bet for the security of the globe than those battling his army, and which contain elements from across the region and from Europe who are committed to Abubakr Al Baghdadi’s fancied caliphate.
Should NATO succeed in breaking Assad’s siege of Aleppo, it will be responsible for the bloodbath that will follow once the fighters armed and funded by it take control of the whole of the city the way they had in the past. The good news for NATO is that the UN Human Rights machinery has a blind spot where the alliance is concerned, and hence none of its members will need to stand before any tribunal in Geneva. There has been a steady drum roll of commentary by CNN, Al Jazeera and BBC as well as several newspapers about the sufferings of the people of Aleppo, exactly as was the case in Benghazi in 2011. However, should NATO’s chosen warriors prevail over Assad, that is when the massacres will begin.
Sunday, 7 August 2016
Friday, 5 August 2016
In any part of the world where the governance mechanism is healthy and the level of freedoms enjoyed by the citizen high, those who have migrated from India do exceptionally well. Indian-Americans are the wealthiest ethnic group in the US, with an average income higher than either Japanese-Americans or Jewish Americans. The story is similar in other parts of the world, including within the European Union. This is despite the fact that there is a transparent bias within that conglomerate of states for those of European ethnicity. In Germany, for example, immigration authorities would most likely turn away a software programmer from Chennai or an engineer from Kanpur, but would welcome with warmth under-educated members of regional mafia groups from Rumania or Bulgaria.
The European Union has been founded on the premise that ethnic Europeans are far and away the most productive and intelligent of human beings, and hence that giving them privileged access would enhance the future prospects of the country taking them in. This is in contrast to the US, where for the past fifteen years, those entering the country (legally) from Asia have been placed on par with those from Europe, unlike in Australia and New Zealand, although even in these countries, authorities are understanding a truth.
That human beings have been created equal in human potential by Almighty, if only each were given the same chance to excel. Again in the US, in the closing weeks of 2008 the majority of voters ( of whom a majority were of European extraction) voted in Barack Hussein Obama as both as their Head of State and Head of Government. Should Obama get his wish fulfilled, the next President of the US will be Hillary Clinton, the former Secretary of State who was endorsed with grace and charm by Michelle Obama, who made the best speech that was heard during the just concluded Democratc National Convention, far better than the platitudinous remarks that were made by President Obama and his hoped-for successor Hillary Clinton Perhaps because the perception of such quality is what got him the Nobel Peace Prize, Barack Obama constantly puts on the mien of a saint, long on statements of noble intent but less than surefooted about how to translate them into practice.
However, overall he has been an outstanding President of the US, not always because of what he has accomplished, but what he has prevented. Had Obama found the courage to oppose Hillary Clinton in her zeal to ensure that the wishes of France, Qatar and Saudi Arabia got carried out to the letter in the case of Libya in 2011, Europe would almost certainly have been spared the flood of refugees that since 2011 has kept on coming and will keep on seeking to enter Europe for several years more. The flood of weapons into Libya fuelled the conversion of the anti-Assad campaign in Syria into an armed struggle interwoven with acts of terror.
It is the intervention of NATO and its regional partners that has generated the terror groups and the instability that has wracked Syria since mid-2012,when Hillary Clinton and her French and UK counterparts ramped up backing for that nonexistent tribe,” moderate fighters”. Had President Obama not held back from doing a Libya in Syria, the situation regarding refugees as well as terror would have been worse than even the horrors taking place during the present time in Syria.
Whether it be Iraq, Libya or Syria, intervention by NATO has led to the unravelling of the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement, this time as well mainly by the same powers that signed the initial mapping of boundaries in the region around and within the Levant, France and the UK. Apart from Hillary Clinton, who has consistently backed Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar in geopolitical disputes in the Middle East, it has been Paris and London that have led the way in intervention. In the process, myths have proliferated (such as that “the entry of ISIS is because NATO did not take out Assad the way it did Kaddafy” or that “ a bloodbath was averted in Benghazi by intervention”) that are as much barefaced lies as the repeated statements of George W Bush, Tony Blair and their underlings and apologists that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD when the Iraqi dictator and his men told the world till they were hoarse the truth, that there was no longer any WMD in Iraq.
In the case of Benghazi, the bloodbath followed its “liberation” and not before, although of course, the International Criminal Court at the Hague would not dare to bring to trial Nicholas Sarkozy or the fantasist posing as a philosopher who most bayed for intervention in Libya, Bernard-Henri Levy, who incidentally has been as vocal about intervention in Syria as he was in the case of Libya. Of course, it must be admitted that such views ensure a royal welcome in Doha or Riyadh, not to mention the US Department of Stare, where several dozen serving officers have sought to assure their promotions in the eagerly awaited Hillary Clinton Presidency by demanding US military intervention in Syria.
Should they succeed, the odds are high that there would be a military clash between Russia and NATO in the Syrian theatre, just as the odds are rising that there will be a naval conflict between Japan, the US and Australia with China in the South China seas. Even more than the grossly mismanaged aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, events in West Asia from 2011 to the present have ensured instability — indeed chaos — in large parts of that region for at least a generation more.
Hillary Clinton, even if she somehow manages to lose the Presidential race to Donald Trump, will enter the history books as being a prime mover in the process that has resulted in the reversing of Sykes-Picot. Whether it be Syria, Libya or Iraq,it is unrealistic and indeed dangerous to seek to return these countries to their Sykes-Picot boundaries. New states have become inevitable out of the three, and only when these have been formed will the situation in the region have the potential to regain the stability that was lost for it by NATO and its thoughtless interventions.